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Passionate De Palma
le 17 juillet 2013
Firstly, please excuse that I don't speak French, hence my review in English. Fortunately, Brian De Palma seems much more appreciated as a master of his form in France than he is in the U.S. and U.K. This is an exquisite new Brian De Palma film. Passion is playful pure cinema, covering De Palma's common themes and visual styles (voyeurism, technology, obsession, manipulation, deception, guilt, beautiful femme fatale's, heightened performances, overt artificiality, deliberate tonal shifts & stylistic flourishes). Whilst the first half of the film plays as a seemingly straightforward corporate drama, replete with corporate backstabbing (with a brilliant, but frankly bonkers Pino Donaggio soft core score). All is not as it seems however, and the second half of the film takes on a completely different direction and moves into the realms of dreams within dreams and German expressionism with a trademark and quite wonderful split screen section involving Mallarmé's/ Dubussy's 'Afternoon of the Faun' ballet linking the poem/ballet to a key character and murder of another which tricks you about its timeline. There are images and adverts of the ballet shown prior to this, and the story behind Mallarmé's poem (the awakening of a faun and the faun's encounters with several nymphs in a dreamlike oration) is central to both to the plot of the story & the character & motivations of Isabella. (Donaggio's score too transforms to riff's on Bernard Hermann's dramatic strings).
Like so many De Palma films, this gets even better with multiple viewings as you realise and understand more what about what you have and haven't seen, what is and isn't real, & what is a dream or a re-awakening.
Elements of other De Palma psychological thrillers (in particular Sisters, Dressed to Kill & Raising Cain) resonate throughout this film. Overall, fantastic fun.